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Federal funds could soon be on the way for historic ferry line in Port Angeles

The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would allow private vessel operators, like the Black Ball Ferry Line, to apply for federal funding.

PORT ANGELES, Wash. — There is hope on the horizon for one of Washington state's oldest and most historic ferry lines that has struggled to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress members and senators from Washington said Wednesday they have secured support to provide financial relief for Washington's maritime industry.

The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would establish a comprehensive new program under the Maritime Administration to give financial assistance to those eligible, including state and local governments, port authorities, and private vessel operators.

The funds would be used to "maintain the stability and reliability of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System in the event of a national emergency or disaster, including, the current COVID-19 public health emergency," said a statement from U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who represents Washington's 6th District. Kilmer, along with senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, are behind the act.

It's good news in Port Angeles, where the Black Ball Ferry Line hasn't been able to operate since March. Port Angeles officials said hundreds of businesses rely on the ferry line.

The new relief program would allow private vessel operators, like Black Ball, to apply for emergency funding. 

"We are so appreciative and pleased with the constant support and efforts of Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, and Congressman Kilmer for Black Ball and all of its employees," said Ryan Malane, co-owner and vice president of the Black Ball Ferry Line, in a prepared statement. “While Congress still needs to appropriate money, and we need to make application for funds, this is a major step forward.”

Companion bills are still making their way through the House and Senate.

RELATED: Pandemic jeopardizes future of historic ferry route between Port Angeles and Victoria, B.C.